Preservation of Tribal Culture and Tradition: An Appraisal

Dr. Vinay Kumar


Role of Media in Preservation of Tribal Culture and Tradition

Need for Preserving Tribal Cultural Heritage Conclusion


The need for preservation of tribal culture and tradition and the role that media can play is highlighted.


Man and culture are inseparable and considered being the two sides of the same coin. One does not exist without the other. The cultural innovation was the most remarkable mechanism that led man to more and more complex setting to adapt to the new environment. In fact, culture maintains order, balance with nature and natural as well as supernatural forces through their disposition, feelings, attitudes and manners as well as in significant forms, which they give to material objects. Simply defined, cultural heritage refers to that package of cultural asset that man has created and maintained in the forms of values, norms, cultural tradition, beliefs, knowledge and range of activities that often provide meaning and substance to human life. Representing extreme variations of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, the intangible cultural asset produces a spectacular identity of a nation, which makes an astounding spectacle of the overall psyche and sentiments of entire communities residing in that nation. In fact, intangible culture is the soul of all that we see in the tangible form of the culture. It can be pretty easy to conserve a temple or a palace but to conserve the real meaning of the temple, we should also conserve the festivals, processions, music dance and other rituals associated with it.

Tribal Society is an enigma to the world of culture and heritage. In the broad sphere of Indian society, the tribal communities represent an important social category of Indian social structure. They are considered as the original inhabitants of India, who carry forward a legacy of rich and distinct cultural traits for many decades. Tribal society displays a fascinating profile of ethnic diversity. They belong to different racial stocks, speak language of different families and show considerable variations in their heritage. The variation in physical and biological environment of their habitat is equally amazing. This bewildering variety in race, language, habitat and economy is fully reflected in their culture, which like a mosaic evokes the admiration of social scientists to study the dynamics of their society.

Need for Preserving Tribal Cultural Heritage

The intangible heritage that the tribal population possesses including the traditional knowledge system contains many positive and productive elements that are really invaluable for the entire humanity. Despite its significant role to integrate the society and enhance the sense of ownership to the concerned people and culture, intangible heritage faces serious threats for its existence. In many parts of India fast pace of modernization has been taking toll on it. The danger also comes from the rapid process of globalization, homogenization, and pervading influence of western culture. There is even more critical situation facing tribal culture: the intense pressure of adopting the cultural framework of ruling class elite within. Each human community has developed its own ways of life to satisfy human needs through the process of interacting with specific environment and the universe throughout the centuries. These processes provide living communities with a sense of continuity with its previous generations and are important to cultural identity, as well as to the safeguarding of cultural diversity and creativity of humanity. There are many challenging factors that are quickly bringing permanent changes in the present day and every one of us should be primarily concerned with the preservation of human cultural inheritance in its multiplicity of forms and manifestations. There is thus an urgent need to preserve intangible heritage in order to contribute to the development of mankind.

The whole tribal society at present moment is going through the critical stage of transformation. Various modernizing forces have brought rapid transformation in their whole socio-cultural milieu. Cultural intermixture is on increase and this is sure to effect a perceptible change in the life style of tribes. Changes brought through modern and scientific attitudes are healthy sign for their development, but at the same time attention should be paid to preserve their traditional systems, which have immense value. The art and culture of tribes should be given new orientation and respectability in the overall scheme of cultural development. The best traits of both the tradition and modernity should be synthesized for their sustainable development. The tribal people have rich traditions, cultures and heritage with unique life styles and customs. Till date, it is not being preserved. Today the rich cultural heritage of the tribes manifested in its folklore, costume, jewellery and lifestyle, is under serious threat, and may fade into oblivion. There is no authentic documentation of the traditional tribal lives, history and cultural heritage in India. At present there is no centre of excellence or one stop information centre, which holistically deals with the tribal folklores, customs and traditions and its application for promoting endogenous development.

Role of Media in Preservation of Tribal Culture and Tradition

There is general agreement that the media has the capacity to influence audience attitudes, and that it exerts influence on social life. A media impact study commissioned by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 2003 revealed that the impact of media was “visible in the social, cultural, and political aspects of tribal life…” Article 49 of Constitution of India obliges the state to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest, declared by or under law made by Parliament to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export, as the case may be and the state shall endeavour to preserve, protect and promote the cultural heritage of the country, including monuments, places and objects of artistic or historic interest …to enrich society and the cultural life of the citizens.

In this context the print media and the digital media can provide a powerful public voice for this indigenous culture. As a public service, media must continue to be a virtual public classroom, a platform for display of indigenous cultures, and it must guard itself against temptations to indulge in mindless commercialism and politicking, a weakness many newspapers and television channels in the region have suffered. The print media’s research departments must identify those aspects of the country’s tribal culture which has remained untouched and are more vulnerable to the phenomenon of loss and displacement. Tribal culture and tradition should be presented by the print media in order to sustain and promote the originality of our cultural heritage that can create awareness among the younger generation. The younger generation needs intellectual feed that has cultural values and deep perspectives. The print media’s role in educating young minds on the distinct manifestations of tribal culture—be it the literary canons, spirituality, or folklore, will be immense.

Senior citizens, academics, culture bearers, writers and researchers, the academia—all must work to evolve a discursive community that will create a public space of common concern dedicated to disseminating cultural knowledge, articulating cultural aspirations, and advocating cultural maintenance and promotion. When we look at the three popular domains of tribal culture, namely literary culture, spiritual culture, and folk culture we find that the media can create adequate public space for disseminating cultural knowledge and facilitating popular discourse amongst them.

In an age in which a networked society is given much importance, there remains an imbalance between the globalization the digital technology brings and the preservation of Indigenous culture. Alongside the promise of better education and communication, digital media and networked technology can widen the horizon of knowledge amongst the Indigenous societies and can provide an alternative to Indigenous traditions for younger segments of society. It may be obvious to say that the mass media in general and television in particular, have a huge cultural significance, since television is the most popular and ubiquitous popular medium, offering diversity and availability unmatched by the print media. The way in which the audiences of mass media and television interpret the world shapes their existence and their participation in society. Television can be considered “ the site of convergence that joins the private world of the home with the larger public worlds beyond the front door”. In an effort to prevent the wholesale extinction of Indigenous practices, many digital preservation projects by the Government and the NGOs are currently underway. When we analyse globally we see that at the University of the South Pacific, in Fiji, students are encouraged to film traditional ceremonies in their home villages while on holiday, which are later on uploaded to the University's Cultural tradition database. In Canada, the Aboriginal People’s Television Network gives native peoples in Canada an opportunity to share their cultures with non-Native Canadians but not any such attempt has been made in our country. There is a need today to develop digital media and networked technology according to the modes and habits of these Indigenous cultures. This may include developing strategies to enable Indigenous people to utilize digital technology, creating digital toolsets that allow modification and customization for Indigenous content, and exploring the development of technology according to the goals and ways of thinking of Indigenous Peoples. The three phases necessary for a robust digital preservation, promotion and growth may include:

  1. Straightforward documentation of Indigenous traditions;

  2. Translation of Indigenous traditions into emerging technology and contemporary cultural modes of expression;

  3. Application of principles of Indigenous traditions to develop new technologies.


So the need of the hour is to preserve the rich & fast diminishing cultural heritage of the tribes by making people aware and motivated towards it. Hence the need of media arises on this tribe to highlight the salient features of its values. The media can play a vital role for an exhaustive documentation of tribal values in the form of documentaries, which could be an important tool for future generations to know about its culture and customs. The media through their documentation and presentation of culture will help to expose and promote the tribal cultural identity and uniqueness to the outside world. The media must play a proactive role in the cultural sphere, as it will in the political sphere. This desire is in fact expressed unambiguously by the government when it links the media’s role to the country’s social, cultural and political imperatives: that the media in India must be conscious that “it serves a small vulnerable society that survives on the strength of a distinct cultural identity ” and that it must be sensitive to the “cultural and social complexity in the environment of rapid political transformation”.